Martin named Sporting News All-Star

Russell Martin, who burst on the Dodger scene almost as an afterthought when catcher Dioner Navarro went down with an injury in 2006, continued his remarkable climb into Major League Baseball's rarified air by being named as the National League catcher on The Sporting News all-star team.

  He started 142 games behind the plate in his first full season, played in his first All-Star Game, and finished with a .293 average, 19 home runs and a team-high 87 RBIs, also setting a Dodgers franchise record for a catcher with 21 stolen bases.

Martin led N.L. catchers in hits, home runs, runs scored, stolen bases, walks, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The 24-year-old Canadian was the only Dodger voted onto the team in balloting by Major League players.

He joins former Dodgers catchers Mickey Owen (1942), Roy Campanella (1949, 1951, 1953, 1955), Mike Scioscia (1990) and Mike Piazza (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997) on the honor team. He is the youngest of the group to be selected, beating Piazza by five months and 11 days.

Martin caught 117 games as a rookie in 2006 and was ninth in the Rookie of the Year voting. He hit .282 with 10 homers and 65 runs batted in. The Dodgers were a remarkable 71-43 in games he started behind the plate. He was only the third catcher in history (John Roseboro and Benito Santiago) who hit 10 home runs in their rookie season.

He was drafted as a third baseman in the 17th round in 2002 and after hitting .095 in his first eight games, turned on the burners and finished with a .324 (36-for-105) surge over the rest of the season.

He was converted into a catcher in 2003, splitting the season between South Georgia and Ogden. He was so well thought of he was invited to spring training in 2004. He was a Florida State League all-star that year and a Southern League all-star in 2005.

General Manager Paul DePodesta had acquired Dioner Navarro from Arizona early in 2005 for Shawn Green and cash rumored to be $10 million, then added catcher Jason Phillips from the Mets for lefthander Kaz Ishii. But Navarro hit .273 with little power over 50 games and Phillips hit .238 in 2005.

Martin started at Las Vegas in 2006 after recording a .317 average and a .404 on-base percentage during spring training. Then Navarro suffered a hamstring pull that sidelined him after 25 games and Martin was promoted on May 5.

He had an RBI double against Milwaukee in his first game and in true Wally Pipp manner, Navarro became superfluous and was traded to Tampa Bay along with pitcher Jay Seo and minor leaguer Justin Ruggiano for pitcher Mark Hendrickson and catcher Toby Hall.

And like they say in the movies, "The rest is history."

Players Vote
The awards are voted on by 488 major league baseball players and 30 managers. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees was voted the player of the year.

NL awards
Rookie of the year: Ryan Braun, 3B, Brewers: He hit 34 homers and drove in 97 runs -- and batted .324 -- in roughly four months. Comeback player of the year: Dmitri Young, 1B, Nationals: A season after he was released, Young finished eighth in the N.L. batting race. NL manager of the year: Bob Melvin, Diamondbacks: Based on the 16 N.L. managers' ballots, Melvin got six votes. The Phillies' Charlie Manuel received five.
Jake Peavy, P, Padres
Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers
Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins
David Wright, 3B, Mets
Matt Holliday, OF, Rockies
Carlos Lee, OF, Astros
Aaron Rowand, OF, Phillies
Russell Martin, C, Dodgers
Jose Valverde, RP, Diamondbacks